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Posted by on Aug 15, 2009 in At TMV, Economy, Media, Places, Politics | 7 comments

Thank Sean Hannity For Getting One Thing Right

Sean Hannity, one of the conservative commentators on Fox News I usually find repugnant, deserves credit for calling national attention to a tragic scenario that is playing out in California’s fertile San Joaquin Valley. The nation’s largest bread and fruit basket is experiencing a third year of drought made worse by severe cutbacks in imported water because of federal protection of an endangered species, a tiny minnow-sized fish critical in the ecological life-support system for orcas and several salmon families.

Of course, Hannity has a limited niche audience. At least he is trying to illuminate a severe problem effecting not only the lives of farmers and farm workers in central California but the cost of food for all Americans. It deserves a national debate but is drowned out by the national media’s one-at-a-time focus on health care reform with the struggling economy and climate change legislation straggling behind in second and third place of attentive priorities.

But as his style, Hannity frames the issue as fish vs. people and the government is the villain. If only it were that simple the farmers would have received their allotment of water, the second (or eighth, depending whom you believe) highest unemployment rate among the state’s 57 counties would drop and everyone would live happily ever after. Unfortunately, we don’t live in Hannity’s world.

The politics is relatively clear cut. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger has declared the valley counties a disaster area and hopes for $3 million to $4 million a month in extended unemployment benefits and other aid to the targeted cities and counties. The Obama administration has yet to sign off on the request.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar visited the stricken area and listened to the plight from county and city elected officials, state representatives, farmers and laborers. That was June 28. He promised nothing and no directives have been issued from his office on the subject since that time.

The delta smelt, the threatened minnow destined on the Endangered Species list, plug the drains releasing water to the farm lands. As a result, the Westlands Water District serving Mendota, a city in Fresno County, restricted the federal water allotment to farmlands to 10%. One result is planted fields going to rot and the other Mendota’s unemployment rate reaching 41%.

But environmental groups involved in this battle hold the upper hand. Here is a sampling from one of the groups:

While falsely blaming modest regulatory protections for “fish populations to the north” for the Central Valley’s problems, Representatives Jim Costa (D-Fresno) and Dennis Cardoza (D-Merced), neglected to mention the impacts that massive water exports out of the California Delta have had upon the thousands of people that have been employed in the commercial and recreational fishing industries and the coastal and Central Valley communities that depend upon healthy fisheries for their economic health. The closure of recreational and commercial salmon fishing season off California and Oregon this year and in 2008 has had a devastating impact upon coastal communities in both states.

“While they are bitching about fish protections robbing them of water (not true!), the Bureau of Reclamation is preparing now to ship 40,000 acre-feet of Central Valley Project water to Southern California – swimming pools and golf courses,” noted Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman’s Associations.

One analyst for an environmental group may have cherry-picked the data and came up with these numbers:

Fresno County had 15.4% unemployment in May with a 9-year average of 10.5%. The average unemployment for all 18 primarily agriculture dependent counties in May was 15.6% which placed Fresno eighth and Imperial County first at 26.8%.

“What this data clearly shows is that unemployment is chronic in Mendota (28.1% average), worsened by the drought, as with all other agriculture dependent counties,” the analyst reported.

“The owners of the big farms there are certainly not sharing their profits well with the labor community that serves them. There is much to be done to improve their plight, and it should not include disaster relief from the taxpayers (as requested by the Governor and our Senators).”

For more complete details on this story, try this link to the Fresno Bee, and this one and a third which presents the environmentalists opposition.

Forgive me for stealing a motto from Hannity’s network.

I report. You decide.

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Copyright 2009 The Moderate Voice
  • APR

    How about we not grow all of our food crops in places that are dependent upon irrigation water? Valuable farm ground in the east and Midwest has basically been devoted to industrial (and heavily subsidized) crops and sprawling suburban development, leaving areas like Florida and California to produce most of the real food in the country. The jist from the column here is that there isn’t enough water to go around, not the darter that just happens to be native to the area, and is clearly suffering from the abuse of the water systems by humans in that region.

  • APR

    Jerry, wasn’t really commenting one way or another on your column, sorry if it comes across that way. More just a comment on Sean Hannity’s simplistic right vs. left view of the world.

  • Father_Time

    Did you know that we can import food cheaper than we can grow it here?

    • ieatfood

      Without inspections, a lot of products would come cheap. Melamine melon anyone?

  • prusso
    • Cycleops

      Aquafornia ( is a better place to turn for information about the ongoing water issues in California. The Fresno Bee is unfortunately not able to fully report all sides (based on its location and reader expectations). For example, it does a poor job of mentioning or reporting that the water allotments differ based on water rights and water contracts. Westlands happens to have no actual water rights of its own and relies on water contracts with the Federal government. Farmers in the adjoining district have water rights senior to the Federal government and will get 100% of their water this year. Non-environmentalists also have some lingering doubts about the numbers given for jobs lost due to the pumping restrictions. Aquanomics has more. Other posts pull state and federal numbers on job losses such as:

      Hannity is right to put a spotlight on the issue but he needs to present a truly balanced view that covers all of the sides and subplots. After all, even the California Supreme Court has acknowledged that “the scope and technical complexity of issues concerning water resource management are unequaled by virtually any other type of activity presented to the courts.” Environmental Def. Fund, Inc. v. East Bay Mun. Util. Dist., 26 Cal.3d 183, 194 (1980).

  • kcrystale


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